Often time, disclaimers are put in small print at the bottom of whatever is written. That is not the case here. This is my disclaimer that the views and opinions expressed in this article are that of myself (Wayne Perry-the author) and not of any group or organization. Also all numbers and percentages are based off of information that has been provided to me. You may want to investigate further for yourself.
This article will be a three part series trying to discover why there is such a significant difference in the divorce rate when comparing male and female US Army soldiers. This first part will be laying the groundwork with information I have collected. The second part will purely be opinions as to what the problems are. The third part will then be how we may resolve the problems. There is no use stating a problem if you don’t have a solution.
Before my wife enlisted I would have been oblivious to the goings on in the military. Yes I kept up with current events but not to the extent I do now. I think that is the case for every individual. We tend to focus on things that affect us directly a little bit more closely. As I travel the military spouse (MILspouse for this article) world, I am often met with words such as “I never gave a thought as to what male spouses go through” or my personal favorite “I never even thought about male spouses because there are just so few of them”. But since I am a male MILspouse, I do take notice to male MILspouse issues.
Here is what I know. According to a few articles written in The Military Times that I have read, the divorce rate for a male US Army service member is approximately 2.6%. That is roughly 1 in 39 male soldiers who have a marriage that ends with divorce, (This is a correction from a previous article I wrote for the Homefront United Network where I stated it was roughly 1 in 48). The divorce rate for the female US Army service member is approximately 8%. That is just over 1 in 12 female service members whose marriage ends in divorce. The female service member is three times more likely to have their marriage not go the distance. Like I have said in the past, this is NOT the military’s fault or the US governments fault. The fate of a marriage rests solely in the couple involved in the marriage. Although there can certainly be indirect outside influences that have a hand in this.
According to the Department of the Army’s fiscal year demographics, as of September 30, 2010 there are currently 329,661 married US Army soldiers. This is both male and female. It is no secret that the male MILSPOUSE makes up only a VERY small fraction of this demographic. Only 9% of all spouse’s married to a soldier are male. The percentage of dual military couples for female soldiers is 40%. While the percentage of dual military couples for males are 5%. The number of male MILspouses married to female US Army service members who were prior service was not provided. I have “heard” it is somewhere in the neighborhood of an additional 10% but I would guess it to be quite higher.
When looking at the percentages it is hard to consider there is much of a need for anything for male MILspouses. But when you consider the number of service members we are talking about, there in all actuality is quite a large community of male MILspouses. In total there are 36,305 male MILspouses. Of these 14,522 are dual military. This leaves 21,783 male MILspouses who are no longer (if ever) affiliated with the Army outside of being married to a soldier. I don’t know what the reader thinks, but I believe 36,305 people are quite a large number. It pales in comparison to the female spouse which hovers around 293,356. But still, over 35,000 people are certainly not a number that can be overlooked, especially when we are talking about marriages.
If you use the statistics I mentioned above regarding the divorce rate for Army personnel as stated by The Military Time (2.6% for males/ 8% for females) this is how it breaks down. Out of the 293,356 male soldiers who were married last year 7,627 will be divorced by year end 2011. Out of the 36,305 female soldiers married last year 2,904 of them will be divorced. What that means is that the female soldiers, who account for only 9% of all marriages, account for over 36% of all divorces.
Marriage is not easy in and of itself. It takes two people who can commit themselves to one another. It often times means making selfless sacrifices. In the civilian world marriages end as well. But for those of us living in the military world we know that the stresses associated with living this life weigh on individuals a bit more than our civilian counterparts. There are certain factors the typical couple does not tend to have added to their marriage that we do.
Marriage isn’t for everyone. Quite certainly being married to a service member is not for everyone. Marriage does take much flexibility. Although being married to a member of the military takes flexibility to a whole new level. The best analogy I can think of to describe the difference would be in a civilian marriage you need to be as flexible as an eight foot 2×4(which does bend) as compared to a military marriage where you need to be as flexible as a rubber band. Just watch out though, because sometimes the military will pull that rubber band to its breaking point and release it and it will “pop” you. But it is not the military that causes the rubber band to break. That is left to us individuals who when the rubber band is being pulled, we pull away and the rubber band snaps.
In the next part of this series I will share some of the struggles associated with male MILspouses from what I have experienced and heard. But not just from the short time my wife and I have been on this journey, but from the life we lived before she enlisted. Make sure you stay tuned to find out how I think we can fix this problem. The answers may surprise you.